Sunday, 24 January 2010
Why I Support Manchester United Part 2
I just realised that in my previous post, I alluded to something regarding my love for United peaking and then dimming and then haven't explained, as I said I would, so this it the post where I do just that.
Up until United won the European Cup in 1999, I was very much an intense and passionate Man Utd type, going to as many games as I could (although no longer as cheap as it used to be and far harder to come by) and cheering from the rafters/cheap seats. I even played David Beckham in a show at the Nottingham Playhouse about when he was sent off against the Argies...anyway, I digress.
Ever since United became my team, I immersed myself in their history and one thing that loomed large, especially after the title triumph of 1993 that banished the 26 title-less years, was the re-gaining of our rightful crown as the champions of Europe. United always seemed a long way off ever putting that travesty to rest and 99 seemed to be no different. United only got in via the qualifying round and past the awkward Polish team LKS Lodz, before going on to only make the knock-out phase after finishing the second best runner-up, quite a bizarre idea but one they embraced and faced the awaiting Internazionale, who were quite a formidable shambles and we bested them with some ease, clearly the run would come to an end however, with the great Juventus waiting.
Managed by the genius Lippi they were formidable opponents and at Old Trafford they drew 1-1 and I really felt we were going out but then of course came Roy Keane's tour de force performance at the Stadio Delle Alpi, a performance of such immensity, bravado and heart on sleeve power it still takes my breath away thinking about it and from two-nil down to three-two and a win on Italian soil Manchester United were in the final.
And it was the bloody Germans (isn't it always) in the form of Bayern Munich that were awaiting us; powerful, metronomic and with England's arch-tormentor playing libero Lother Matthaus, it really didn't bode well, especially as United were without Keane and Scholes and the Germans took the lead only six minutes in and held it without much concern.
I was watching the game at home with my then girlfriend and some very good pals, who sadly I have lost contact with, it was unseasonably hot in late May and the sash windows were wide open for the breeze and beer was flowing and much shouting was going on at the TV but clearly, we were going to lose one-nil.
The fourth official indicated three minutes of injury time and United had a corner, I was screaming horse to get it in and get a toe on it, even Schmeichel ventured up to Bayern's penalty area. Beckham flighted the corner in just over Schmeichel's head, Dwight Yorke put the ball back towards the crowded area, and after Thorsten Fink failed to clear sufficiently, the ball arrived at the feet of Ryan Giggs on the edge of the area. His right-footed snap-shot was weak and poorly struck, but it went straight to Sheringham, who swiped at the shot with his right foot, and nestled the ball in the bottom corner of the net.
Time of goal: 90:36
Oh the joy and then I thought we had a cracking 30 minutes of extra time to go before we lost on penalties to the Germans, as we always do.
But United forced another corner, we were all screaming at this point, Beckham again swung it in and it was headed downwards by Sheringham...Solskjær shot out a foot and poked the ball into the roof of the Bayern goal and United were in the lead.
Time of goal: 92:17
I can't quite remember what happened but I do remember screaming and then throwing myself out of the front window(not through the glass but through the gaping sash), into our front garden, leaping over the fence and finding myself on my knees in the street (thankfully, we lived in a cul-de-sac) cheering, screaming, shouting with tears rolling down my face as the noise from the TV told me Manchester United were the champions of Europe.
I will never forget that moment.
Commentator at the time Clive Tyldesley famously said: "What must Lothar Matthäus be thinking?" before adding: "Well, with the greatest respect, who cares?"
Little did I realise that was the night that the real burning intensity of fandom died, when I went from being a United fan in the truest sense of a fanatic to merely a supporter, a casual follower, rather than a die-hard.
Perhaps my flame will be re-ignited when Man Utd get shit again?
For now, I'd like to live on memories of that night and of Clayton Blackmore's scorching runs and Danny Wallace falling over and Mal Donaghy being a rock and those young boys: Gary and Phil Neville, Nicky Butt, Paul Scholes and David Beckham becoming the greatest in the world.